Study suggests that learning from mistakes works only after age 12.

At some point between the ages of eight and twelve, learning shifts from being dependent upon positive reinforcement to relying more on learning from mistakes – so says this study.  Researchers at Leiden University gave computer tasks to groups of children and adults while they lay in an MRI machine.  The results surprised them.  It was expected that the children would learn in the same way as adults, only with less efficiency.  What the results indicated was actually happening was that there was a fundamental shift in how children were learning.  This shift was observed by measuring differences in brain function between groups of eight and nine year olds and eleven and twelve year olds.  Simply put, the younger kids seemed to learn more efficiently when given positive feedback (e.g. “Good job!”), while the older kids learned better when adjusting to their mistakes.  Adults also learned better when adjusting to their mistakes, but were more efficient.  For the full story, click here

Image courtesy of Leiden University)
Learning activation in younger children (Credit: Image courtesy of Leiden University)